Join or Die AOP Mug
Join or Die AOP Mug

Join or Die AOP Mug

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The words “join or die” can have very different implications depending on who’s saying them to you. If it’s some thug who has espoused an especially nasty ideology – communism, for example, or facism – they mean in no vague terms that they intend to kill you if you don’t begin wearing their colors. But when it’s Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the Founding Fathers of America and the inventor of irresponsible kiting, “join or die” has far greater meaning.

Franklin coined the phrase “Join, or Die” when he drew a political cartoon for the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. In his cartoon Franklin depicted a very unfortunate snake, each piece of which represented one of the American colonies threatened by the French during the Seven Years' War. If these metaphorical snake bits did not unite to form one functional snake, Franklin argued, the outcome would be disastrous.

Franklin’s poignant illustration on the necessity of cohesion would later be put to good use during the Revolutionary War, when once again the American colonies needed to band together in order to rout foreign influence. Today Franklin’s cartoon lives on as the Gadsden Flag, the cherished black-and-yellow banner flown in support of limited government and gun rights.

The iconic chopped up snake still represents states banding together against an existential threat. It may also be used to express Gadsden ideals, albeit a little more subtly. The last thing you need is someone with pink hair accosting you at the gas station because they think you’re some facist who wants a smaller federal government.